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Armstrong Pump, Inc. v. Hartman

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 7, 2013

ARMSTRONG PUMP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS HARTMAN, and OPTIMUM ENERGY LLC, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Armstrong Pump, Inc. ("Armstrong"), and Defendant Optimum Energy LLC ("Optimum"), seek claim construction for various claims found in three patents filed by Thomas Hartman. To that end, the Honorable Hugh B. Scott, United States Magistrate Judge, held a Markman hearing and issued the now-pending Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), which construes and defines various claims.

Presently before this Court are objections from each party. For the following reasons, the R&R is accepted in large part, but set aside as to some matters.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

This Court reviews specific objections to reports and recommendations de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). When only a general objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, district courts subject that portion of the report and recommendation to a clear error review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2)-(3). District courts, however, are not required to review the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as to which no proper objections are interposed. Ianniello v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., No. 10-CV-370, 2012 WL 314872, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 1, 2012) (citing Thomas v. Arn , 474 U.S. 140, 150, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985). Ultimately, this Court may accept, reject, or modify any of the Magistrate's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

B. Armstrong's Objections

Generally, Armstrong's objections take one of two forms: it either objects on the ground that (1) Judge Scott assigned some claim terms an unnecessary special construction when the claim term has an ordinary meaning; or it objects on the ground that (2) Judge Scott failed to perform "indefiniteness analysis" and, relatedly, his construction of some claim terms refers only to a functional limitation - it fails to disclose an adequate structure.

Reviewing them de novo, this Court finds Armstrong's objections unavailing on each of the claim terms to which they apply.

As for the first type of objection, this Court finds no error in Judge Scott's clarification of some claim terms despite the fact that they may be commonly understood by those with ordinary skill in the art. As noted by the Magistrate, further clarification may help the jury understand these terms. And, although Armstrong cites authority supporting the proposition that terms such as these sometimes do not need further construction, it offers no authority for the proposition that these claims cannot be specially defined. To the contrary, even cases relied on by Armstrong demonstrate that in some circumstances, commonly understood terms require construction. See O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., Ltd. , 521 F.3d 1351, 1361-62 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("A determination that a claim term needs no construction' or has the plain and ordinary meaning' may be inadequate when a term has more than one ordinary' meaning or when reliance on a term's ordinary' meaning does not resolve the parties' dispute."). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Armstrong does not argue that the constructions at issue are wrong or misleading. Accordingly, this group of objections is dismissed.

In Armstrong's second group of objections, which comprises two separate but related forms of objection, it argues:

First, because of the deficiencies of the specifications of the patents-in-suit, the R&R does not identify a structure for the means-plus-function limitations as required by law or perform an indefiniteness analysis for any "structure" that is disclosed. Second, the R&R adopts constructions for the means-plusfunction limitations ...

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